Today over at Laced With Grace, I shared the following post. As I pondered it, another thought came to me and I'm sharing it with you today in my new last paragraph. Also, my LWG friend Debbie reminded me of another noteworthy athlete, Oscar Pistorius from South Africa, who ran Olympic speed with prosthetic legs. Check out the video below where he met and danced with a 7 year old English girl who wears the same prosthetic legs. I tried (and failed) to find the actual NBC Olympic coverage footage, but this YouTube video gets the point across as well. It's simply an amazing story!
Here's the video of Oscar Pistorius:
Like so many others, I was captivated by the Olympics earlier this month. There were the major stories – gold medals for the fastest man alive, the most decorated Olympian, the first African-American all around gymnast. You know their names without my sharing them – Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas. The media lavishly focused on the perfection of these performances.
But there were other noteworthy performances that received far less attention.
For me, some of the most compelling stories were those devoid of athletic perfection.
In the 2008 Bejing Olympics, during the women’s 400 meter relay, Lauryn Williams dropped the baton in the final leg of the relay. Facing certain defeat in the race, she picked up the baton and ran to the finish line, coming in dead last. When asked why, Lauryn responded that she “just had to do it.”
This year in London, Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, a former world-record holder and Olympic champion, stumbled into the first hurdle in his race, his injured right leg unable to make the leap. He stayed down for a few moments before hopping on one leg the rest of the track to the finish line.
Two days later, in the first leg qualifying heat of the men’s 4×400 relay, American sprinter Manteo Mitchell heard a loud “pop” and felt his left leg snap. With 200 meters to go, he faced the decision to keep running or stop and lose the race. He finished his lap allowing his team to qualify before limping off the track. Doctors later confirmed that Mitchell had broken his fibula halfway through his race, his personal Olympic dreams ended.
These athletes and many others exhibit the perseverance and endurance that makes a true champion. They are living examples of what Paul said in his letter to the Philippians:
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil 3:12-14
In the race of life, we will have setbacks and disappointments. These are God’s tools to produce in us perseverance, character, and hope; patience; maturity; and godliness. (Rom. 5:3-4, 2 Cor. 1:6, James 1:4, 2 Peter 1:6)
Last week, a beautiful young mother died of cancer. She finished her race and is now in glory. Her grieving husband and baby will need to press on for the prize for which God has called them.
Another friend is in the hospital on life support. His family and friends pray for a miracle and grow in endurance.
A single mother lost her job. A family faces foreclosure. A wayward teen breaks his parent’s hearts. A middle-school student is bullied. All people I know. All so hard to live through. But in each of these situations, their testimonies reflect the glory of God. He strengthened their faith as they pressed on through these setbacks and disappointments.
“The testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-4)
“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)
“Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider Him who endured such opposition, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Heb. 12:1b-3
How do we run the race with perseverance? By focusing on Jesus and the joy He sets before us just as He endured the cross by focusing on the joy set before Him. And as we consider Him, He strengthens us so we will not grow weary and lose heart.
Beloved, what will you be considering today?
It occurred to me that these friends and acquaintances of mine (and yours too) are our current day “great cloud of witnesses.” The OT faith heroes in Hebrews 11 had their victories and their struggles, yet the writer of Hebrews exhorts us that we can throw off anything that hinders us and run our race with perseverance because of their testimony. Likewise, the people I mentioned above and so many others who are valiantly enduring through their struggles serve as encouragement to me to press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. May I be such an encourager.
Here's the video of Oscar Pistorius: